“You’re not supposed to be in here!” exclaims a woman in a security guard uniform. It seems I’ve stumbled onto the set of some unnamed creature feature, and I’m feeling more unwelcome by the minute. Unfortunately, the only way out is through, and I brace myself as I walk through a heavy white door into the bowels of the backlot. Green lasers shoot across the room and the path forward becomes unclear. Every few steps, I encounter a new kind of ghoul. It’s a massive party for the dead and dying – and it sure is crowded! haunted adventure 2019
Haunted Adventure is a community-run haunted house located in and around Burbank’s Starlight Bowl in Stough Canyon. Produced by the Burbank Parks and Recreation department, Haunted Adventure has been serving the neighborhood for over two decades, and is a popular attraction for families and young teens.
One would be tempted to call Haunted Adventure a small-scale production, at least in comparison to attractions like Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights or Reign of Terror in Thousand Oaks. But there’s nothing particularly small about this long-running community haunt. The walk-through maze is absolutely jam-packed with scare-actors – easily more than one hundred, plus a staff of coordinators and attendants.
The Parks and Rec department pulls together this enormous cast through a general call for volunteers every year, where all are welcome to participate in some capacity. The result of this is essentially chaos, usually in the best possible way. Almost every room contains at least 3 or 4 actors, who are given more or less total freedom over their character. It’s a great way for young performers to experiment and make a variety of horror archetypes their own. Since many of them are untrained scare-actors, there are some wonderful and unexpected choices to be found. One young actress on our tour was letting loose impressive blood-curdling screams every few seconds – something most scare-actors avoid as it’s almost impossible to sustain. Due to the massive overpopulation of cast, some actors get creative, with one especially limber and hilarious young man hiding in a garbage can.
This year’s theme is “Backlot Horror Stories.” The haunt begins with a very brief and mostly superfluous narrative introduction, where we learn that we are on the backlot of Starlight Studios and the movie monsters have turned on us. It’s a clever justification for the loosely related scenes and characters – just as all volunteers are utilized, so too is any prop that the team can get its hands on. While there isn’t much in the way of set design – black curtains comprise most of the maze’s walls – the innards of the Starlight Bowl exhibit a natural creepiness. There are plenty of eerie hallways and rooms to explore, and the entire haunt is quite long, taking around 10-15 minutes to complete.
There are a few issues that can’t quite be excused by the financial limitations. There are minor safety concerns, such as strobe lights used to light up stairwells. There is an over-reliance on strobe lights and lasers in general – whereas most haunts have one or two sections that sensitive guests can cover their eyes for, here they are used almost constantly. There is also quite a lot of incidental contact from the mostly untrained actors, and no warning to say that you should not touch them back. Given that professional scare-actors often encounter physically defensive guests, one can imagine that this would be especially important given that so many of Haunted Adventure’s scare-actors are children. There is a sign noting that children under 6 are not allowed, but this does not seem to be enforced. While Haunted Adventure is far less scary than most haunts, the sheer number of actors, intense lighting effects, and blaring music could easily be overwhelming to many young children. The problems are all relatively minor, and should not dissuade any prospective guests, but perhaps more focus could be given to these issues during training, in order to bring it up to speed with other local haunts.
Overall, Haunted Adventure is a fun and affordable Halloween night out, and serves as a great training ground for young performers interested in the horror genre. It’s also a good introductory haunt for young guests. For horror lovers, it’s weird, wild, and more than a little heartwarming. It’s hard to leave without a smile, appreciating the hard work and infectious energy of this scrappy ensemble.
Haunted Adventure is just $5 online ($7 at the door), and runs one more night – October 18th – buy tickets HERE. Tickets also include carnival games and food trucks, and best of all, there is ample parking in enormous free lots. Lines for the haunt can get long, so it’s best to arrive close to opening time. Make sure to subscribe to our Event Calendar for more Halloween and horror entertainment throughout the year.
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